Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A team led by The University of Western Australia is one of six international finalists in a challenge to develop the next generation of fully autonomous robots that could undertake dangerous missions in hostile environments.

The team, WAMBOT/MAGICian, is up against five teams representing the USA, Turkey and Japan and has members from UWA, Edith Cowan and Flinders Universities, Thales Australia (also the primary sponsor), and local industry.

The team is in the running for a US$750,000 prize and opportunities for contracts with the US and Australian Departments of Defence with their vehicle prototypes and human-robot interfaces.  The competition is organised by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Australia and the Research Development and Engineering Command in the US.

Australia's Acting Chief Defence Scientist Dr. Warren Harch announced the six finalists, who will compete in the finals in Adelaide in November.  "These teams are at the forefront of robotics technology," Dr Harch said.  "They have survived a rigorous assessment and elimination process against six other semi-finalist teams."

UWA Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Robson, said the University's success in a major international competition with the potential to save soldiers' lives was evidence of UWA's increasing presence on the world stage.

Australian and USA officials visited all 12 short-listed teams, culled from an initial 23 from five countries, to evaluate their robots.  The teams' robots performed a range of activities to demonstrate specific capabilities including the ability to operate autonomously and to map their surroundings digitally.

UWA's Professor Thomas Braunl said his team was happy to be among this elite international group of finalists for mobile robot research.  "Our team has worked very hard in the last semester to get to this stage and we especially value the effort from our volunteer team members from local industry as well as the support of our main sponsors.  We have created a competitive group of mobile robots with state-of-the-art hardware and software components."

ECU's Dr Adrian Boeing said the team was very excited about the finals and is looking forward to bringing the first-place prize to WA.

"The six successful teams displayed high levels of innovation and dexterity in completing their assigned tasks," Dr Harch said.  "They now have a few more months to fine-tune their concepts for the grand final challenge when they will be required to field at least three robots and accomplish a complex task involving mapping and identification of threats while demonstrating a high level of autonomy between the robots.  We want to move from the current paradigm of one man-one robot to one man and many robots."

Media references

Professor Thomas Braunl (+61 8)  6488 1763  /  (+61 4) 02 017 315
(Engineering, Computing and Mathematics)
Dr Adrian Boeing, Edith Cowan University  (+61 4) 01 823 113
Steve Butler (DSTO)  (+61 8)  8259 6923  /  (+61 4) 18 800 323
Defence Media Liaison  (+61 2)  6265 3343  /  (+61 4) 08 498 664
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8)  6488 5563  /  (+61 4) 32 637 716


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